First, that we may put a difference between Christian and heathen virtues. For, howbeit the same virtues in kind and name are and may be found both in those that profess Christ and those also that are ignorant of the true God. Yet they are in them after a divers manner. For in heathen men they are the gifts of God, but not parts of regeneration and new birth. But in those that be true Christians they are indeed not only the gifts of God’s Spirit but also essential parts of regeneration.
That we may better yet conceive this difference we must understand that the grace of God in man is twofold: restraining and renewing.
Restraining [grace] is that which bridles and restrains the corruption of men’s hearts from breaking forth into outward actions, for the common good, that societies may be preserved and one man may live orderly with another. Renewing grace is that which not only restrains corruption but also mortifies sin and renews the heart daily more and more. The former of these is incident to heathen men and the virtues which they have. It serves only to repress the act of sin in their outward actions. But in Christians, they are graces of God, not only bridling and restraining the affection, but renewing the heart, and mortifying all corruption. And though those virtues of the heathen be graces of God, yet they are but general and common to all. Whereas the virtues of Christians, are special graces of the Spirit, sanctifying and renewing the mind, will, and affections. For example, chastity in Joseph was a grace of God’s Spirit, renewing his heart. But chastity in Xenocrates was a common grace serving only to curb and restrain the corruption of his heart. And the like may be said of the justice of Abraham, a Christian, and of Aristides, a heathen.
William Perkins, Cases of Conscience, 1st edn, 1606; repr. 1617, 113. [modernized]